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The Acts of the Apostles: Chapter 16

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1Paul a Gk He went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2He was well spoken of by the believers b Gk brothers in Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

6They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district c Other authorities read a city of the first district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

16One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave‐girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortunetelling. 17While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a Other ancient authorities read to us a way of salvation.” 18She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29The jailer b Gk He called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord c Other ancient authorities read word of God to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

35When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, “The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37But Paul replied, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.” 38The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; 39so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40After leaving the prison they went to Lydia's home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters a Gk brothers there, they departed.


a Gk He

b Gk brothers

c Other authorities read a city of the first district

a Other ancient authorities read to us

b Gk He

c Other ancient authorities read word of God

a Gk brothers

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

15.36–16.5 : Paul revisits the churches of the previous mission.

37–38 :

John called Mark … had deserted, see 12.12n.; 13.13 .

39 :

Compare the disagreement here over John Mark with the report in Gal 2.11–13 that Barnabas disagreed with Paul over the legitimacy of Jews and Gentiles eating together. According to Acts, this problem had already been dealt with in 10.1–11.18 , although the apostolic decree ( 15.20,29 ) may have been intended to make association over meals acceptable for Jewish Christians. Barnabas and Mark revisit Cyprus ( 13.4–12 ), which had been omitted on the return journey to Antioch described in 14.24–26 .

40 :

Paul now sets out as an “independent” missionary, accompanied by Silas (v. 22 ). Paul's ties with Antioch may have been strained at this point (see Gal 2.11–14).

16.1 :

Derbe and … Lystra, 14.6n. Timothy ( 17.14–15; 18.5; 19.22; 20.4 ) was a more important companion of Paul than the picture in Acts suggests (see Rom 16.21; 1 Cor 16.10; 2 Cor 1.1,19; Phil 1.1; 1 Thess 1.1); he is referred to as Paul's “child in the Lord” at 1 Cor 4.17 . The pseudonymous letters 1 and 2 Timothy are ostensibly addressed to him. Timothy's mother (see 2 Tim 1.5 ) is said to be Jewish, while his father was a Greek.

3 :

That Paul … had him circumcised seems unimaginable in view of passages such as 1 Cor 7.18 and Gal 5.2 . Paul stresses in Gal 2.3 that Titus “was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.” Timothy's case might be different because his mother was Jewish (v. 1 ), yet the principle of matrilineal descent (the ethnicity of the child is determined by the mother) does not appear to have been in effect at this time. Luke may have allowed his theme of Paul's faithfulness to the law in all respects ( 21.23–24; 22.3 ) to color the narrative here and refute the charge raised in 21.21 in advance.

4 :

The decisions, the apostolic decree of 15.20 . The apostles are mentioned here for the last time—their age is now over.

16.6–10 : Directed by the Spirit through Asia Minor to Troas.

Journey through the interior to the Aegean.

6 :

The region is probably the country northwest of Iconium where both Phrygians and Galatians lived. Asia, the Roman province of that name in western Asia Minor ( 6.9 ).

7 :

Opposite Mysia, a north‐western part of the province of Asia; Bithynia was to its east. Spirit of Jesus, equivalent to the Holy Spirit in v. 6 .

8 :

Troas, on the western coast of Mysia.

9 :

Macedonia, a Roman province in Europe including the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea.

10 :

The “we” passages ( 16.10–17; 20.5–15; 21.1–18; 27.1–28.16; see Introduction) begin here and bring additional vividness to the story.

16.11–40 : Paul and Silas in Philippi.

11 :

Samothrace, an island in the northern Aegean, midway between Troas and Neapolis, the seaport of Philippi.

12 :

Philippi was a leading city, but not the capital, of Macedonia. It was populated by discharged soldiers who received grants of land and enjoyed the special civic rights that pertained to a Roman colony (freedom from taxation, Roman legal procedures).

13 :

The Gk word normally rendered “prayer” in the New Testament can also mean a place of prayer, as here, which may or may not imply a building (synagogue). By the river, some evidence suggests that Diaspora synagogues were frequently located near water. As usual in Acts, Paul seeks out the Jewish community in a new place.

14 :

Worshiper of God, the same word is used to describe proselytes in 13.43 but is applied to “women of high standing” in 13.50 in contradistinction to Jews. The term might simply describe Lydia as pious or suggest that she is a Jewish sympathizer. Thyatira (Rev 2.18–29 ), a city of Lydia, a country in western Asia Minor, was a center for the dyeing industry.

15 :

She and her household were baptized, dependents followed the head of the household in religious matters (v. 31; 10.2; 1 Cor 1.16 ).

17 :

In Lk 8.28 the Gerasene demoniac identifies Jesus as Son of the Most High God. The epithet is common for God in the Psalms of the Septuagint. The “we” passage (v. 10n. ) stops here and resumes at 20.5 .

19 :

Acts frowns on making money by magical or supernatural means (see 8.18–24; 19.25n. ).

20 :

Magistrates, Gk “generals”; here probably not a military but a civic term (apparently to be distinguished from the “authorities,” v. 19 ).

21 :

It was not lawful for Jews to make converts of Romans.

22–23 :

Cf. 2 Cor 11.23–25 (“imprisonments…floggings … beaten with rods”).

24 :

The familiar motif of escape‐proof security ( 5.19–20; 12.6 ).

26 :

An earthquake, here a supernatural event (see 4.31 ). Doors open and bonds are loosened for Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae 447–448 ; see also Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.669–671. See 12.6–11n.

27 :

Drew his sword, a Roman jailer whose prisoner escaped was liable to forfeit his life (cf. 12.19; 27.42 ).

30 :

The question is elicited by the supernatural circumstances.

33 :

The entire household is baptized (v. 15 ).

35 :

Police, lictors, officials who enforced the decisions of a magistrate.

37–38 :

With dramatic flair the reader suddenly learns that both Paul and Silas are Roman citizens protected by law against scourging ( 22.25; contrast 2 Cor 11.23–25 ). This increase in Paul's credentials strongly endorses the theme of the compatibility of Christianity with Roman life (see 10.1n.; 13.7n.).

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